Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to nurture your extra intense child?

In his new book, Enjoying the Gift of Being Uncommon: Extra Intelligent, Intense, and Effective , Willem Kuipers writes about XIP ( Extra intense persons).

XIP children share these four characteristics 
  1. High Intellectually ability in a given subject or field like chess, maths, or music
  2. Incurably inquisitive in anything they do
  3. Require high degree of autonomy: they seem to have their own minds to take their own decisions
  4. Possess excessive zeal in pursuit of their interests be it sports, arts or a s
As you would notice, Willem Kuipers definition of gifted-ness is not confined to intellectual ability or IQ. It includes conative traits like passion and character traits like inquisitiveness and autonomy. In other words, as discussed earlier, talent or gift includes the 3Cs of talent

I happen to meet many such children now a days. Parents often approach me because they note the intensity of their young child before they realize that their child is developing at a faster rate.

When they are progressing appropriately in their classes, they look normal although they may also seem to be different and compulsive in their behaviour. Please also read this blog of prodigies. Some of these children are also autistic on a range of spectrum. Please read this blog to tackle the wrong interpretations of autism. But when these extra intense children lose their path, they seem to display the worst of their behaviour: disobedience to elders, ruled by their changing whims and fancies, breaking the rules at the drop of hat, and always seem to be too much in a hurry. Sometimes, the child keeps the frustration inside and rebels against everyone and everything.

Parents of these children follow these three strategies to help their intense children: 

1. Understand that these children's emotional ability lags behind intellectual ability

Although their intellectual ability is growing at a rapid rate, their emotional ability always lags behind. And this causes most of the problems for these intense children. They are not in synch with their age-group children, their aspirations get mixed with competence, and they often have no cognizance of what they can do and what they cannot. Their social competence is often lacking.

Parents have to remember that their child is of young age although he or she may seem to accomplish something unusual sometimes. Even though they are doing wonderfully well in some fields, they have to be given the space to fail in relationships and in managing their stress as well as positive emotions. Although they seem to know what they want, parents have to remember that they are equally scared of failing on a chosen path. They need help in understanding and finding the right friends.  They are also seem to gel with elder children because the older children display more emotional maturity. 

2. Find an avenue, even if it is arts,music or sports, to express their creativity and high level of energy 

Many a times, it takes a long time to find a domain that will do justice to the child's talent. When this happens it presents a curious problem to parents. If a child is unable to express his abilities, he or she feels frustrated and vents out his frustration in dysfunctional manner. It is therefore prudent to find an avenue in which the child can dissipate his energies, even though the avenue may not lead the student to the final destination of his domain such as Engineering or medicine. For instance, students with extra ordinary cognitive abilities in mathematics, seem to love music. Parents of these students should let them develop their interest in music, even though music may not be the final domain in which the student will flourish.

3. Follow the child's cognitive growth closely and feed it on timely basis

This is easier said than done. It is important for the parent to understand what her child can do well and help her find a teacher or an activity where she is challenged in that activity. For instance, if the child is very good in logical reasoning, it is important to introduce him to the 'computing world' so that he can not only feels challenged enough, but also finds a medium to 'consume his energy and attention' on his own. The same is true if you find the child is good in numerical reasoning, spatial reasoning or verbal reasoning. Some parents find this difficult because it forces them to understand the underlying principles of learning and development and actively participate in their child's development. Some parents find it easier to take help of developmental coach who can understand the child well and appropriately find a path that suits the child's complex and idiosyncratic personality.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why should students learn history and geography in school?

Often parents ask me 'Why should children learn history and geography?'. Especially, why are our students learning about the stories of Aurangzeb and Humayun? or about Egyptian civilisation? Or why are students learning about the different continents ? How were they formed? What do we learn from the wars that have happened in the past? Even students feel that getting this knowledge is not useful. They study history and geography at the last moment only to get passing grade. 

The real question is 'Why should students learn history and geography in school'?

Two major reasons to learn History and Geography in school

1. One, is to sustain the motivation of your child in the school. 

Initially, a child may pursue an activity for its own sake.  He/She may start doing an activity – such as playing guitar, or solving science problems, or playing cricket – just because it is exciting. But, after a while, she loses interest in it and stop doing it. 

To sustain motivation for a long time, some students have to find 'meaning' in learning that activity. These children are not motivated just by learning subjects like Algebra or Science.  Marks alone do not excite them. They get bored by solving problems in algebra, mathematics or English, because their mind keeps on raising a question 'Why am i learning this subject? What is the purpose of learning this?" 

I never liked History subject in school. That was until i was in VIIth. In VIIth, i got a new teacher. When i fared poorly in History, he surprised me by asking me ' You are so good in History. Why do you score poorly when you know so much in History?' When he saw my wide mouth look, he replied ' You always answer my questions such as who invented Steam Engine and how. That is History'. He completely reframed the meaning of History to me. He increased my interest in science by making me gain more information of how those scientific discoveries happen,  who makes them, how they happen by chance. I discovered Edison and his countless experiments. I found the bigger motivation to learn science. From then onwards, I did not study science to get more marks. I studied science because it was going to help me solve 'bigger problems' of mankind. 

2. Second, is to ensure that the future work-life is not stuck up due to lack of motivation.

In a school, our children require motivation to learn. In the work-life, we require motivation to do our work. But to sustain motivation , we need to find 'meaning' in that activity. Initially, money may help us get motivated to do our job. But we cannot do our jobs only for money after a while. We need to find meaning in our job. How do we find meaning in an activity? To find meaning in an activity, we need practice

In history, we get the practice of finding meaning in the events and situations that made history. Such as the small event of Salt Satyagraha in the India's Independence. Or knowing the evolution of a steam engine, through History, we understand the importance of learning the function of car engine. Geography enables us to connect with the dense interconnection of different elements of life, be it earth, air, water, animal life and forests. And Literature – novels, biographies, and other artifacts - is the source of knowing about how the leaders and big geniuses perceived their lives, what they considered as meaningful in life. 

Why do we need to learn these subjects in school? If we start learning these subjects in school, we tend to store them in memory. According to the fundamental rule of learning, the more 'items of a subject' we store in memory, the more easier it is to learn new things on the same subject. If for instance, you were initiated in Geography in school, you will understand the topic of global warming when you read it in newspaper. You will understand the impact of pollution on the air. With more reading, you will be able to appreciate the dynamics of pollution, and find a way by which you can contribute to the 'cleaner climate'. Through history and geography, we understand how a 'small' contribution in a field from our side can make a 'big' impact in the world outside. 

On the other hand, when we are not exposed to History and geography in our school, we get stuck up in our work-life like Manisha, Digvijay or Ramesh, because they are unable to find their motivation of doing the job. One cannot learn this skill easily at a later age. One must be building on this skill from early age.    

However, individuals who get this practice of finding meaning, tend to find their long term motivations in life more easily. This is how individuals like Larry Page of Google can make a bigger impact on society. Or help individuals like Nandan Nilekani find satisfaction in helping government by using their professional expertise. Or help rich entrepreneurs like Wipro's Premji to spend money in education.   


As you would have guessed by now, History and Geography help you develop your Conative traits, the third C that helps you unleash your talent. If you have not read the 3Cs of talent, read this. Conative traits are the traits that help you fire your torch, that motivate you in a sustained manner. Doing the normal routine of your life, be it work, play, movies, friends, can be made more happy and satisfying if you develop your conative traits. And the earlier you develop them, the better it is for you. Because if you do not develop them early, you will find it difficult to live your daily life. You will never know where and how you have lost the fire ! So if your child is in school, it is time to develop his/her conative traits by introducing him to History and Geography early in life.  

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Helping student practice arts is a lifeline that can help him avoid mediocrity

Last week, I went to a program to listen to a friend's child who was playing tabla. He is just of 8 years. In his group,  children of the same age were playing tabla . Everyone was playing tabla with serious intent. In that program, one parent had come with her daughter. I praised her willingness to support her child's intent. She was almost apologetic and self-justifying herself when she said, 'Oh, it is just a hobby. It keeps her busy. She is so jumpy and energetic'.

Why do we misunderstand the use of practicing arts, be it singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, painting, sculpting, pottery, making artifacts like jewellery, purses, story writing or anything else? Why do we consider it as a 'time-pass' activity only? Why do we value it so less when it is so important even in becoming a good engineer or a doctor ? Why do we presume that  practicing arts is not just a luxury, but necessity of our life?

I guess we value arts less, because we are ignorant of talent-developing process. We therefore do not know the role that arts plays in developing our own talent. If we knew this process, we would not only take our 'hobby' of any arts seriously, but develop it with intent and focus. As we saw in our earlier blog, our talent-package is not just developing one ability, but includes developing a package that includes ability plus our character traits and conative traits. 

In other words Talent = Ability like teaching, programming or designing  + character Trait like self regulation and creativity + Conative traits like passion and purpose. All three are required together to develop a talent. Like we saw in the earlier blog, only ability like batting is not enough.

Practicing Arts like tabla offers a student three benefits for developing his/her talent of anything (be it engineering, medicine, or accounts) :

1.  It helps her practice and develop personal trait of Self-regulation 

In developing his talent, say in mathematical deductive reasoning, personal traits like motivation, patience,persistence, are as much important as the basic skill of mathematics. And the most important personal trait the student needs is self regulation, regulating his attention and energy into a specific activity until he can produce the desired result. I shall later show you the research of psychologists on why they think that self regulation is more important than IQ in excelling in our talent.

But, for now, let us ask ourself 'how can a student develop self regulation' ? It cannot be developed by reading books, or by saying any mantra. The only way to develop self regulation is to engage in an activity - like tabla, music, singing, dancing, skating, or anything else - and use the generated interest to learn that activity more and more. The process of engaging in an activity like arts automatically helps a student 'practice' and develop self-regulation.

For instance, when my friend's son plays Tabla, he forgets everything for that time. He is fully engaged in it. He learns 'concentration'. When his teacher wants to play a specific 'matra' in tabla, he has to try again and again and practice them for a long long time, until he gets it right. This develops 'persistence'. Every day, he plays tabla even at home without being told. That develops internal motivation. The child goes through the practice of self regulation every day. Where else can student practice this? Practicing tabla is therefore a playground where a student learns to develop self regulation.

2. Practicing arts develops another important trait to excel: Creativity 

Creativity is a character trait that a student badly needs to excel in anything. Psychologists have discovered that this is one reason why students with average IQ manage to produce extraordinary performance in their lives.

But students do not get any playground in their school-life for practicing this habit of creativity. Students observe something novel only in experiments of physics or chemistry. Their surprises are limited to observing the birth of chicken from egg, or seeing a butterfly coming from a caterpillar. Their creativity is therefore expressed only in one-off venture such as painting elephants white, making a birthday greeting, decorating a friend's party, or taking photographs. The closest these students come to create anything new is writing an essay on their first visit to Zoo.

On the other hand, while practicing arts, creation is the centre-piece of the work. Whether it is playing music, or doing a painting of flower pot, Creation is an experience. Initially the child imitates and copies. But slowly and surely,  the child learns to create something from nothing. More importantly, the child practicing Tabla understands the process of creation. Within the constraining rules of Tabla, the child learns to produce 'new' experiences first hand and learns the habit of creativity.

Last week, i had gone to a birthday of my creative coachee, Jaya, who is good in drawing. Her close friend had telephoned all the friends of Jaya, asking them to send back a video clipping of what they thought about Jaya on mobile, compiled a collage out of it, and presented it to Jaya on her birthday. This is creativity !

More importantly, because a piece of arts cannot be evaluated as right or wrong, the child learns that everything in life cannot be evaluated as 0 and 1. It is a lesson which is also useful to find his purpose of life. In my coaching, professionals take 40 years to appreciate that their life achievement cannot be measured only by the amount of  'money' they earn.

3. Practicing arts gives us first hand feedback on our 'minds' capability

In the school, children study subjects such as physics, mathematics and chemistry and reproduce their understanding in the test or exam. This feedback from exam of 'how their mind is functioning' is not accurate, because exams are merely reproducing what was taught to them. Exams are not good outputs. Exam does not show that a student has understood 'as-is' reality well enough to manipulate the reality.

But in practicing arts, outputs are excellent because they give us an accurate feedback. In arts, when we produce an output, we get a 'feedback' from others on 'how it looks or feels to them'. When we draw a picture, for instance, we are not praised for 'the right strokes' or the 'best use of colours', or the 'layout'; we are praised for the 'whole picture'.  The feedback is direct and whole. The same is true when we design a greeting, or write a story, or play a song on cello. Art offers this experience of producing outputs that we all crave for. Because it provides us a feedback that increases the capacity of our mind to understand as-is reality ( which can then be used to manipulate it).


When the parents are apologetic about their children practicing arts, like the parent i met at the program, i almost wanted to scream at her and tell her, "Please do not apologise for your daughter's arts. It is not a hobby. In Arts, she will find a key that will unlock the the doors of her talent, whatever her talent."

Arts is a beautiful practice ground to  practice personal trait of self regulation and creativity that is critical to succeed in life. Output of Arts offers us a first hand feedback ( and that too early in life ) that helps us believe that we have a 'capable mind' that can deal with as-is reality. 

Practicing arts is not for learning arts, that is a minor objective. Its main purpose in our life is unlocking the puzzle of our talent ! 

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Who is more talented - Ishaan or Jeevan?

Ishaan, a VIIIth class student, scores well in Science, Mathematics and other subjects. In one of the IQ tests he gave, he scored in the range of 130. He is always ranked amongst the first three in his class. Ishaan however has few friends, in large part because he has very poor social skills. Ishaan has no hobbies to speak of, and is unengaged in significant extracurricular activities outside of school. 

Jeevan, also in VIIIth class, is in the same school as Ishaan. He does well in many subjects, but ranks somewhere middle in the class. However, he is active in football. He also is a highly talented guitar player. And his teachers feel that he can reach very high potential in guitar, if he wish to follow that path. Jeevan is very popular in the school 

Who is more talented? Ishaan, Jeevan or both? Or neither? In answering this question, three things must be kept in mind.

First, “talentedness” is a label—nothing more. Even if you ask this question to a psychologist, you will get multiple answers to this question, because there is no one absolute or “correct” set of criteria. Because of Lewis Terman, high IQ has got more equated with 'talent'. Even today, when a child does well in academic subjects in schools, we wrongly consider him/her as a talented student ( and forget to give him much needed support !)

But we must remember, that criteria for such labeling are a matter of opinion, nothing more, and there are many disagreements, even among psychologists, as to which label is right. By the way Lewis Terman had assumed that only students with IQ more than 135 are highly gifted and talented in his study. So even Terman may not have labelled Ishaan as 'talented'. On the other hand, we find many Noble Prize winners hover around the mark of IQ of 130. Are they less talented?

Second, the label can be applied in either a more general or a more specific way. Earlier, the student was termed as talented only if he does well in academic domain. His proficiency in non-academic domain like music and sports was not considered to be important. Now the psychologists generally agree that the talent can be seen in a very narrow domain like verbal domain or writing. Even within a domain, there are narrow domains. For instance, even in writing, you may be a good fiction writer or a non-fiction writer. So domain-specific talent has been recognised as an important criteria of talented people. By that definition, you may consider Jeevan to be talented in music. With domain not chosen, Ishaan is perhaps at a disadvantage, because he has to decide in which domain - accountancy, engineering, medical - he wants to excel?

Third, concept of talent depends on the context in which the ability grows. Forty years back, a child’s ability rapidly to learn a language like Sanskrit was an important sign of talent. Today, such an ability would be relatively less valued. A decade earlier, talent in computing was not even recognised because there was no 'software' profession. Today you hear about child geniuses like Tomar who dropped out from school because computing can be learnt 'without school'. Similarly, the skills that lead a child to be labeled as talented might be different in a rural village in Bihar, than in urban Mumbai. A child in Bihar, who is more street smart to live in hostile situation develops different abilities than a student in Mumbai where his environment offers him many more opportunities to explore.


Talent at the VIIIth class is just a label. That does not ensure that the student will be able to 'realise' his talent and become a 'top performer' in the later age. Therefore many researchers call such 'early talent' as a 'gift'. I also call it a gift when it is seen in children, because it has to be 'discovered and then explored and utilised'.

As you would have realised, both Ishaan and Jeevan, can become excellent performers, but in different domains, if they manage to use the 'systems around them' to deepen their 'gifted' abilities. Because of the 'supportive systems' in our society for academic ability students, Ishaan may get better opportunities of excelling. On the other hand, this does not mean that Ishaan's future success is guaranteed. Because of his 'non social nature', Ishaan has to learn to find the right method to 'utilise' and nurture his academic abilities.

Jeevan, however, may require different kind of 'advise and guidance' to excel in his domain.Because music domain is highly risky domain to excel,  Jeevan may have to develop a fall-back plan. So both will face challenges that will have to be negotiated in their journey of 'utilising their gift'. Success is not guaranteed to either of them although, in today's environment in India, we may assume that Ishaan is more lucky!

But more importantly, we discount character traits, because we feel that they are less important in excelling. We tend to assume that only key cognitive abilities like - science or music- help us excel. But the psychologists have found out that  abilities are just one piece of the 'gift'. Our character traits are equally important part of the whole 'gift package' that help us excel, such as openness to experience that help us learn faster , or our communication skills that enable us to present our ideas and garner support of others, or our creativity to find new solution to existing problem. Our gift is not just one ability, but is a package that also includes our character traits. We have to use the entire gift package. 

In the above examples, both Jeevan and Ishaan may succeed or fail  due to their personal traits. We can easily see this phenomenon in sports. Vinod Kambli was supposed to be as talented as Sachin Tendulkar, but his gift package did not include the character trait of  'concentration'. If you see the stupendous success of Dhoni, which we discussed in the earlier blog, you will appreciate the importance of his mind set, which is part of his unique gift package.Or we also read how Andy Murray's success can also be related to his  character trait which combined with his tennis is a unique gift package.

The key to succeed in life is therefore in discovering, exploring and utilising the entire gift package of yours. Do you know what is the gift package of your child/student? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Choosing right education path after Xth class is less important than making the most of a given choice

Let us understand this important principle of the Second Law of success today. According to the first law of success, the right choice of career path is more critical to career. According to second law, Making the most of a given choice is more critical in excelling. Let us understand why.

How do students choose education path today? What methods do career counsellors use to suggest future education path after 10th ?

Method 1: Guess your cognitive abilities from your subject marks at the 10th class

Normally, cognitive abilities like reasoning, numerical, spatial, verbal, artistic are used to chose education paths that will grow them further. For instance if one is good in reasoning ability in 10th class, he or she chooses Engineering education path to grow reasoning ability further. If the student is good in verbal ability, the student chooses a course in Journalism to grow his/her verbal ability.

But how does the counselor judge the depth of a student's ability in 10th? High mark in Mathematics, for instance, indicates high numerical ability and so too is the reverse. Or high marks in Science ( especially in physics) indicate high logical or reasoning ability. Or high marks in English indicate high verbal ability. These guesses use to be pretty accurate in old days when the SSC standard was strict.

Choices of education-path after 10th worked well for high scoring students always in this method because high intelligence is positively co-related with different abilities. This means that a student with high marks in logical subjects like Physics and Mathematics also has good abilities in other areas such as verbal, numerical, artistic, and others. These individuals could therefore make careers in any of these fields, and if some of their ability remained undeveloped, they could also have time to develop it in their free time.

But as the standards of assessment in the 10th Board exam started relaxing, this co-relation between high marks in a subject and the specific cognitive ability has become 'weak'. For instance the marks in Mathematics in 10th Board does not indicate high numerical ability any more. Therefore, when the same student goes in XIIth science, he fares badly in mathematics. In other words, the marks in a subject , be in English, Physics or Drawing are not co-related with higher ability in the same subject even after two years !

Method 2: Along with method 1, use other predictors to judge the depth of a student's ability

When marks in the HSC board exam alone cannot be good predictors of future ability, the counselors started using other predictors such as students scores in competitive exams like Olympiads, National or State merit exam, or scholarship exam. Even the student's score in other competitive exams that were held by private bodies like Robotics Competition,  or Programmers competition are useful.

This additional evaluation helped the counselor make more educative guesses of the student's current cognitive ability and therefore helped him/her chose the more appropriate education path - engineering, arts or commerce - after 10th. This method is however useful only for average and above average academic scoring students.Why?

Because students with non-academic abilities like Interpersonal (social), intra-personal, performing arts such as dancing or acting fare poorly in academics, cannot use this method. Surprisingly, even smart Academic Students good in many subjects - like maths, biology and physics - do not find this method useful because this method does not help them choose between  the courses of medicine, engineering, commerce or design?

Currently used Popular Method 3: Take aptitude tests to choose your education path

This alternative was meant to identify a student's 'aptitude' in a specific domain like law, Commerce, medicine and even performing arts. However the name of aptitude test is a misnomer, because these tests do not measure 'aptitude'. Instead they measure a student's performance in 'cognitive abilities' by giving a 'Test'. For example, by asking you find third 'number' in the sequence of three numbers, they measure your 'numerical' ability.

So how do these tests work? They measure 7 to 8 cognitive abilities ( like numerical ability, verbal ability, Spatial ability, Processing speed, Working memory etc) of a student. However, knowledge of your ability is not enough to decide education path. So these counselors also test student's 'orientation' such as social orientation (or practical, knowledge, and power orientation). Some counselors also measure 'personality' traits like creativity, maturity, adaptability etc. The scores of these different tests are then combined to recommend a domain like commerce and law. As you would realise, this method makes lot of assumptions and uses quite a long logic of ifs and buts to recommend a domain. So, does this method really work?

Does this method work?

On the one hand, although this method is more suitable for high academic scoring students, even the guidance for them is too 'generic' because counselors tend to follow 'popular courses' like Engineering and accountancy. Therefore, you will find engineers changing their path to banking, accountants become civil servants, advertising executives becoming film directors. You will find Achyut Godbole passing as a chemical engineering and writing books on psychology and music , or Vikram Pandit becoming the first Indian CEO of CitiBank after doing MS in Electrical engineering.

On the other hand, we have also seen how these aptitude tests measure only 2 of the 8 abilities. Because of this, these tests rarely help students with non-academic abilities. As such they therefore do not recommend domains for them such as political activism, NGO and others. Morever, specialised careers like Fashion, Hotel Management, Event Management are also not recommended because of the difficulties in succeeding in those careers. Trying to tread  on the safe path, counselors end up in not helping students with non-academic abilities.

Can this best available method work under certain conditions?

We fail not because we chose a wrong path, but because we do not prepare adequately for facing the consequences of the chosen path. For instance, we saw how Abhay can fail in MBA, if he does not equip himself adequately.

Similarly, this 'damaged' but 'mandatory' method of choosing an education path after 10th/12th class can perhaps work if these four precautions are taken after choosing the path ( i.e during his graduation):

1. Choose the right college for graduation

Because student's abilities are just growing until 10/12th class, the student should choose the right college to help the growth of his cognitive abilities ( reasoning, numerical and others) in graduation. Students should at least use the right criteria to choose a proper college to nurture his abilities.

2. Find the right learning strategies based on the selected college of graduation

Some students , due to high marks, luckily find themselves in the best possible college. But most of the students take the decision of college and course by following the herd, and therefore are rarely prepared to 'adjust' their learning strategies based on what they encounter in the college.

 For instance, students in Tier 2/3 Engineering colleges have to adopt specific learning strategies to join IT company. Or students joining MBA course in Tier 3/4 institutes, have to fine tune their learning strategies depending the characteristics of their college and the surrounding environment.

3. Fine tune the development of other traits and abilities during the graduation period.

Both counselors and students are at fault here. Neither do the counselors guide the students to identify their abilities, nor do the students take the effort to understand their own abilities. Because of this lack of information, they cannot find their 'least resistance path of excellence' due to which they cannot use the college period to rectify the past mistakes. Or, if he has low IQ, he has to do find his bankable abilities - academic or non academic - and focus on it. 

In other words, the student has to actively 'guide' his learning  ( while he is graduating) if he has to maximise the benefit of the choice. Without this guidance during graduation, he is left at the mercy of the college, faculty and the student environment.

4. Understand and apply the rules of second laws of success

Because choice of career path in India is done at too early an age ( 15-18), with little information about self, one can never be sure if one has made the right choice. One has to get prepared to excel.

One has to proactively understand the second law of success and take actions in advance, instead of the using obsolete laws of first law of excellence which he learns from his elders and the newspaper articles.

For instance, one has to understand the pitfalls of high IQ students, that Leta Hollingworth discovered, if his intelligence is above average. If he has just average+ IQ, he has to use the strategy of focusing on a domain that Renzulli discovered for students with average IQ. Or he has to use Passion to guide his path.  Or he has to use the gift of his emotional and spiritual characteristics in excelling. Like Howard Gardner, the founder of multiple intelligence says,

"There are hundreds and hundreds of ways to succeed, and many many different abilities that will help us get there."

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to select engineering discipline from the 70+ choices

After getting their CET marks, most of the 12th standard students come to me to take one decision:  which discipline - electronics, mechanical, civil, compute science - to chose for engineering? More than half have decided IT or computer science as their first choice. Some students come with a very niche choice like aeronautical engineering. Some want to join father's business and therefore ask me 'if mechanical is a better choice or production engineering'? And because these options have to be given in the next week, everyone needs this urgently.

Root cause of the problem

Why is it difficult to choose an engineering discipline from the 70+ disciplines? This is difficult because it is like choosing a chocolate from a bowl of 70 plus chocolates only on the basis of the color of the wrapper. You are not allowed to open and taste the chocolate. And morever, once you make a choice, you are supposed to eat this chocolate for your entire life. This is how students are compelled to make choice of discipline, without even sampling the taste !

Can any person chose a chocolate under this condition? If not, why are we expecting a student of age 18 to make this choice of engineering discipline?

Ideal way of choosing the discipline from 70+ disciplines 

Ideally we should allow the student to sample the taste of chocolate, tell him about the long-term side effects of  a chocolate ( although he may not be able to appreciate it due to his lack of experience), help him meet people who has eaten a specific chocolate, explore options in a free wheeling manner. This will enable the student to make a more 'deliberate and conscious choice' instead of making a guesswork. Is it practical to taste 70 chocolates?

It is practical only if we reduce the number of chocolates in the bowl. For instance, technology students can choose from the small bowl of some chocolates, say 6 chocolates, such as computer science, electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical and electronics. Why these six disciplines? Because the entire set of disciplines are basically the combination of these six disciplines, the student can  perhaps understand the content of other 64 disciplines by sampling these 6.  Morever, it is possible to help the student to sample the taste of these six disciplines in 2-3 years, to sufficient depth, if we smartly use the Sundays between 8th and 10th class. By 8th class, the student has 'understood' relevant concepts of physics and mathematics and is also 'mature enough' to understand and appreciate the meaning of disciplines and careers. ( The same logic can be applied to help student chose commerce and art disciplines).

But this means that student should spend some time on Sundays, from 8th to10th class, with the right experts who can introduce him to these technology in a way that is both 'exciting' and' informative'. He cannot understand this in a class-room situation with a blackboard. He needs to engage with this engineering world in a meaningful way under the guidance of experts.

If a student misses to sample this taste before 10th class, he can do it during 10th-12th class. But finding time during this period is more difficult, given the need to study multiple layers of curriculum: Board syllabus, CBSE syllabus, JEE mains and then JEE advanced. What if the student does not have the time or the able guidance to taste this chocolate before 12th class?

Thumb rule of  choosing the discipline 

When a student has not sampled the taste of disciplines before 12th, he is forced to use a thumb rule. It is not ideal situation, but is the only way to reduce some risk.

Alternative 1. Choose a best course with a better college

Best course means the course that has better job opportunity and options, after finishing the graduation. Students like to chose IT course because of this criteria, but they are not aware of other choices.

But more than the course, the student should chose a better college. Better college has three components: Better faculty, Good infrastructure of labs, and good placement record.  Please remember, that it  is the college that enables the student to develop the requisite abilities, be it in Mechanical or Electrical. For example, an excellent course like IT done from the Tier 4 or 5 College is not worth a risk. Then use the second alternative.

Alternative 2. Chose a better course with better college 

If a student is unable to find the best 'marketable' course due to his lower CET scores, then the student should focus on choosing a 'better course'. Better courses are niche courses which have better market opportunities in a specific sector, such as Marine Engineering or Petrochemical engineering. They also include courses in Chemical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering ( Sandwich course) because it has wide options of job.

Again it is important to find the right college for the course. Now the student needs to be even more focused on finding the best college for that specific course. For instance, a college like PVG in Pune has a better reputation for mechanical engineering. Finding this college may require some digging of information. Finding a student who has graduated from the college, is the best source of credible and relevant information.

Alternative 3. Choose any course with best college 

If the above options are not feasible, then the best option is to choose the best college ( Tier 1 college) and do any course from that college. Why choosing college is more important than the right course?

Please remember that all courses build your one specific ability: Logical ability. Once this logical ability is well built by the college, you can do many tasks and jobs. That is why you find many mechanical engineers joining IT, or electrical engineers doing Banking, or a Civil engineering graduate doing excellent in Management. In other words, it is better to do Civil Engineering course from COEP, Pune than doing doing IT course from a Tier 3 college.

What options are you planning to use?

Monday, May 06, 2013

How can the mind of student in today's school set him/her for failure?

Mind can set up Learnt helplessness. And when learnt helpless sets in, it is very difficult to help a student to do anything positive in life. To know more about what is Inside journey, read this blog.

Learned helplessness is the condition of a human or animal that has learned to behave helplessly, failing to respond even though there are opportunities for it to help itself. How does this helplessness set in?

In the learned helplessness experiment an animal is repeatedly hurt by an adverse stimulus which it cannot escape. Eventually the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Finally, even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness prevents any action. The only coping mechanism the animal uses is to be stoical and put up with the discomfort, not expending energy getting worked up about the adverse stimulus.**

I have also seen this learned helplessness in many students with regards to studies. How does it set in? Let me present you a hypothetical case of a student, called Savita, that slowly drove her to the state of learnt helplessness through her own mind that tries to make sense.

Scenario 1: Savita, a student, has been faring poorly in physics. She is sitting in the class trying to understand a new chapter of "light' of physics. She has queries. She asks questions to the teacher. Teacher, knowing that Savita is not good in physics, tells her "Please understand the full chapter before you ask a question'. At the end of the class, Savita rushes to ask the difficulty to the teacher. Teacher rebuffs her by saying ' Do i have time only to answer your queries in class?' 

How does Mind of Savita make sense of this situation?: She is confused because her friend is able to understand physics easily. She does not know the concept of logical skill? So she is not able to figure out that her logical skill may not be good in understanding subjects like physics. When someone tells her that she should 'Try harder", she is even more confused. Because she does not 'what else she should must do'. She is paralysed into inaction.

Scenario  2: Savita's father is an Engineer. Seeing her marks, her father wants to motivate her. He tells her his story of school struggle. He tells her how he was also poor in physics in VIIth class, and how he managed to work harder and harder until he understood physics well.

But while telling this story, her father misses the important ingredients of his story. For instance, he forgets to tell her that his class teacher was living in the neighborhood and therefore was more approachable. And he does not tell her that in those days, teachers were far more helpful, because they had more time, and also perhaps, more commitment . What is the impact of this story?

How does mind of Savita make sense of this situation:  Without knowing the full background of the story of her father, what does Savita conclude? She makes another big conclusion "I am unable to summon the willpower to work hard and concentrate". Now this sense-making is more serious, because she has labelled herself as 'something is wrong with me'  

Scenario 3: An experimental science fest is announced in the school. Savita is told to take part in the experimental science fest because her friend is also taking part. Knowing her poor marks in science, Savita does not want to take part in the experimental science fest. She tells her parents and teachers that she does not want to participate. This announcement of Savita now becomes the ultimate proof that she is not trying harder. Her teachers, parents and others have 'evidence' to conclude that she is not really trying harder, that she does not have willpower, that she is not capable enough. All negative vibes are given to her which downs her further. 

How does Mind of Savita pushes her in Learned Helplessness? After several such scenarios, occurring daily in different permutations and combinations, Savita's mind has concluded that she is not 'good enough' to survive in this 'world'. She gives up. Learnt helplessness sets in. And when it sets in, even if someone wants to help her, Savita refuses to use the help to get out of her mess. As her mind has already concluded ( like the animal in the experiment) that she is beyond any help, she refuses to be helped. In a way, Savita has used her own mind to set herself for failure. It takes a major miracle to turn round the situation ! ( Many successful achievers, whom i have interviewed, share such miracle event especially if they have fared poor academically)


In today's school systems, you will find many more Savitas, because schools do not help individual students to find their abilities. You cannot blame any teacher or parents for their helpless state. But unwittingly, the child's mind through sense-making sets him up for learned helplessness. And once, this sets in, even helping a student is not useful for the student, because the student refuses to be helped. 

We plan to prevent the students getting in this state of learned helpless by taking two actions. First,  we  plan to profile every student's abilities and background.  But profiling is just a means to an end. It will help every student develop a Continouous Learning Plan (CLP).  

With this CLP, the second action of assisting student can happen. With this CLP, students can explore their full range of abilities, grow some of them to a reasonable depth by utilising help from schools, teachers, friends and parents. If they have a non-mainstream ability like drawing or music, they still can motivate themselves by finding the 'domains' their ability can be used, because they will not be domain-blind. More importantly CLP, either with the help of mentor or coach,  enables a child to 'see' the invisible process of sense-making of Inside Mind and therefore 'correct' it or re-direct it in an intended direction.

** Martin Seligman and Steve Maier's experiments

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Success formula at school age is to maximise learning outputs

As we discussed in the blog, to succeed in life, each person has to find his/her own success formula because he/she cannot use other's success formula. He can take help from other's success formula, but he still has to find what is right for him in that formula.

While for a working professional, the success formula has to center around producing outputs in work-life, for a student, the success formula has to center around producing learning outputs in school-life. Sometimes these learning outputs can be achieved by getting high marks, sometimes without them.

Success formula of a student should therefore satisfy only one criteria: Maximise learning outputs of a student in a school life. But because each student has different abilities and faces unique challenges pertinent to his background, every student therefore has to go through these three steps:

  1. Step 1: Plan- Find learning opportunities to grow his 'chosen' abilities within his given background ( family and social conditions where he is born) and then
  2. Step 2: Utilise - those learning opportunities fully ( as we have seen in the same blog, the mind of the student determines how he will utilise those opportunities) to convert them into outputs and then
  3. Step 3: Re-plan - Depending on how he utilises his opportunities, he has to alter his plan. This may require choosing different abilities or using different methods to grow the chosen abilities.
So the plan continuously changes due to step 2. One cannot have a fixed plan. We are therefore calling it a continuous learning plan. CLP, in short. Ideally, CLP should be done at the fifth class so that the student sees the unfolding direction clearly by 8th class. The later the plan is done, less useful it is..

A student primarily faces three bottlenecks in creating a CLP  that will suit his abilities and conditions: 

Bottleneck 1: Ability blindness

Students cannot do this planning due to one basic reason: they do not have the lenses to view their 'abilities'.(Check out the typical 8 abilities that are tested in aptitude tests). They are ability-blind. They confuse subjects with abilities. For instance, Learning Physics and mathematics both develops logical abilities of different 'types', but the student does not know the difference between the two logical abilities. 

Bottleneck 2: Ability development ignorance 

Students do not know how to enhance their ability. For instance, physics requires experiments and live models to develop it, but mathematics requires abstract level complex problems to enhance one's grasp. While language development requires taking part in Elocution competition, Drama competition and others, development of drawing ability ( also called as visual ability) can be furthered by using computers. The biggest casualty of this ignorance is the insufficient attention to subjects like History and Geography, that are very critical later in life.

Bottleneck 3: Trait development arithmetic 

More importantly, students are not aware that lack of traits like concentration and patience can cause learning to grow slowly or even stop. Without these character traits, students are unable to utilise the opportunities that have been identified in Step 1. And character traits like concentration and patience develop indirectly, while cognitive abilities directly. For instance, arts enable child to develop character traits like concentration and patience. But ignorance of the indirect method to 'develop traits' either stops or retards student's learning even in subjects like physics and mathematics. During 7th or 8th class, the student faces the biggest emotional transition of adolescence. If the child is not ready for this emotional upheaval, his learning completely derails. 

Bottleneck 4: Domain confusion

Every year, in the month of April and May, you will find several announcements of career guidance seminars in a newspaper. Career guidance seminars explain the careers say in Engineering, Medicine, Accountancy, defence or public service. They really should be called Domain guidance seminars, because with a logical ability, say of Physics, one can enter in any domain for doing work: Engineering, Medicine, Accountancy or Defence. Ability is confused with Domain

In a school, a student should only think of identifying and growing ability, not how to use abilities in domains. However there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if a student has niche abilities such as in fashion, photography, painting, language, or ecology (which are not so popular abilities), he can confidently pursue growth of these niche abilities only if he knows that these abilities have 'market value'. For him, domain guidance seminars are very useful to help focus efforts. But for students who want to grow their logical abilities in Physics, chemistry, they have plenty of options. For them, Domain guidance seminars at a school age is like searching a key under the lamp just because there is light under the lamp. 


If you want to really help your child to succeed in his life, help him find his abilities, identify the learning opportunities to grow his abilities, and then help him utilise those learning opportunities fully. You can do this by having a CLP.

Be it a student with poor academic record, or a student with only right brain orientation like in language and arts, or a student with excellent academic record, a CLP ensures that he will be able to utilise his abilities fully and therefore succeed in life. This is the simple formula of success. As simple as that !

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Profiling a student is the first step in guiding student's learning

As we have seen earlier, learning can only happen, it cannot be forced. Therefore, you can nurture the 'conditions' to make them conducive for learning and hope the student's natural abilities take over and he/she learns.However, on the other hand, if you do not 'intercept' early enough, time is lost irreversibly. So when to intervene is a crucial question in sustaining the learning efforts of a student. If you intercept too early, you demotivate the student because you are unnecessarily helping. If you intercept too late, it may too late. Perhaps the right question is 'how to listen to the student's feedback and fine tune the process' of student's learning over his educational life.

Profiling a student is the best way to 'initiate and fine tune the process of planning student's learning' over his entire educational life.

Profiling a student is understanding his natural and developed abilities, use his background and interest to guide those abilities by making plans, measure his progress ( or lack of it), fine tune and correct the strengthening of his core and complementary abilities. The purpose of this entire planning process is to ensure that a student can utilise his abilities to the fullest in his life to help him achieve his desired objectives.

If the purpose of profiling is to enable student to guide him to identify and develop his abilities, then what data of a student we should include in a student's profile? We need to profile at least three different data points of a student :

1. Student's Cognitive abilities

Abilities are invisible to an untrained eye. A student is learning linguistic and logical abilities by studying subjects like Language, Physics or History.  We can therefore measure a student's progress in learning these abilities only by measuring his/her progress in these subjects. We will have to carefully co-relate  his progress in excelling in these subjects to his development of abilities. We also have to remember that both Left brain oriented subjects and right brain oriented subjects present different challenge.

On the other hand, more marks or less marks can both misguide, because marks only represent the student's ability to reproduce what is taught, not  what he applies in his life. We have seen earlier how the inability to get feedback on knowledge work makes it equally difficult to judge one's progress.Because abilities cannot be measured correctly by marks, we will also have to use other subjective methods of inputting this information.

As we have seen earlier, student's core and complementary abilities are equally important to be tracked because both are equally useful in enabling student to utilise his abilities fully.

2. Student's family and social background ( for conative traits) 

Family and social background present are dual edged swords: they add to the learning constraints as well as increase the opportunities in student's learning.

For instance, although the rich family background means that the family can spend money on student's learning, the rich background also prevents the student to shift the source of self motivation of learning from outside to within which blocks the student's learning efforts. In other words they affect conative traits. To know more about conative traits, read this.

Similarly, a student from a middle class educated background has the tendency to educate and use his abilities in knowledge work, although his cognitive work may be more suitable for entrepreneurial work for which his other interpersonal and intrapersonal abilities are required. Because development of intrapersonal and interpersonal abilities are primarily determined by parental interactions before adolescence, parents may have to play a more active role in learning before adolescence.

3. Student's character traits like self regulation 

Output of student's cognitive efforts, unlike the efforts of sportsman and musicians, are invisible and cannot be seen and measured easily. Student has to be 'helped' to report his progress honestly until his adolescent age. Otherwise, we may get misguided by the student's reporting.

On the other hand, learning is ultimately a voluntary and private activity that has to be guided by a student. His ability to self-regulate his behaviour and mind to guide his efforts predominantly determine the quality of his/her learning.

The student's ability to self regulate his learning can be measured by how he/she utilises his/her emotions and stress. Student's ability to measure and improve his attention span has also to be included in the profile. Self regulation of Mind is also important to help the student to hear his 'inner calling', especially when others around him are pulling him into attractive zones like software.

This Self regulation factor is even more important after adolescence  because the student gets into the adolescent age during his school years, somewhere between 7th and 8th class. Student's ability to negotiate this turbulent adolescent period not only depends on how he/she is prepared before adolescence, but also how his/her parents and teachers support during adolescence. Self regulation can therefore be guided powerfully by the profile data of the student.


Today's students learning efforts need to be guided because they have to learn to utilise their fullest abilities. Why should they use their fullest abilities?

They have to use their fullest abilities because of three reasons: One, competition in the labour market has increased to a very high level. Two, aspirations of students have increased due to TV and other media information. Three, global tools of internet and labour market have made it easier to utilise his abilities fully if the student knows how to utilise his abilities fully.

Are you ready to profile your child/student?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Imbibing one value - growth mindset - is more important than anything else

In my research, I discovered that there is one factor that determines whether a student will excel in the future life. It is the value of growth mindset. Carol Dweck has written about the effect of this mindset in her book.

Please remember that we must have a map and compass to achieve our work-goals. Map helps us to reach to the next destination by anticipating and preparing for expected hurdles while compass helps us in negotiating unexpected hurdles and opportunities. Compass has value settings which guide us in deciding how to put our effort.

Acquiring the value from outside till the age of 12-13 is automatic 

When parents and teachers have fixed mind set  in contrast to growth mind set, they believe that intelligence and talent are fixed traits independent of effort. They believe talent is innate in them. If they do not have it, they are unlucky and cannot do anything about it. 

In such a fixed mindset, external motivators like marks ( which both act as punishment and reward) are the only means to help them understand their intelligence. They avoid difficult subjects because they are worried about faring poorly in them and being labelled as 'stupid'. Even when they score well in a subject, they are worried about being evaluated in them because they may find that they are poor in them. They chose 'fail-safe' options like Engineering and medicine, because majority of their friends chose them. They tend to refuse to work on their passion in drawing , photography and adventure, because excelling in them takes lot of effort and time. Because these students are constantly worried about being evaluated, shifting the source of motivation from outside to within is very difficult for them.

However, if you have teachers who pat your back for the efforts you have taken to learn a difficult chapter, say in mathematics, and not patting on the basis of marks you get in the test, you learn to regard mistakes as the first step in excelling. ( Psychologist call it growth mind set) . They tend to work on a subject/topic, even when they fail for the first time. They believe, that with effort, they can master anything. For them intelligence is not a fixed trait, but like a muscle, it can be developed with practice. 

Luck may also help the students in acquiring this value. For instance, if the student is good in left-brain oriented (LBO) subjects such as physics, chemistry and maths, he or she tends to automatically get the support of parents, teachers and friends (PTF) in pursuing his path to excel. With some confidence in the bag, the student finds it easier to master those subjects because they start feeling 'I am good'. On the other hand, if the student is good in right-brain oriented subjects ( RBO) such as history, geography and language, then the support from parents, teachers and friends is minimal. Without the PTF support, it is not easy to master RBO subjects because they cannot put in the required practice. Without no confidence in the bag, they are unable to master these subjects and therefore start believing that 'i am bad'

Which students require help in imbibing this value?

Students good in RBO subjects ( such as music, art, dancing, history and geography), but poor in LBO subjects, definitely require lot of help and support to acquire this value.They are down because the environment around them is not offering them any encouragement. They have no  motivation to study subjects like physics and maths, while they are unable to muster enough energy to work on their strengths, although that is their only road to excellence. They require urgent help.

But students good in LBO subjects, nurtured with fixed mind set,  also require support. They tend to avoid difficult challenges because of fear of failure. They tend to constantly compare with others instead of feeling secured in their abilities. They tend to always feel that the grass is greener outside and therefore move from one activity to another. Inability to shift their motivation from outside to within stops them in finding their path of excellence.


Fixed mindset urges student to avoid difficult challenges because of the fear of 'failing' in them and being labelled as 'stupid'. On the other hand growth mindset urges students to accept that intelligence can be developed with practice and therefore anything can be learnt by effort. For them, learning difficult subjects is easier. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How students excel even after missing the bus in the school

If you have seen the earlier blog, you will discover that first two steps of choosing the bankable ability and making a learning plan are required to excel. But you will find many students miss these steps. So, despite missing them, they still manage to excel in life. How?

I have found five ways that help these students to excel. Basically, they manage to fill the gap of abilities (that was not developed in school life) by using one of the five options. Let us understand these five options these students take:

1. They find a college of graduation that fosters the depth in the logical abilities

If a student has to develop higher depths in his logical ability, the college should provide the right challenges and support. Because, good marks, are not enough to excel. For instance, the universities in western countries provide the right challenges to a student. You will have heard many stories such as Larry Page and Sergie Brown who excelled at Stanford. They found a problem on which they could invest all their time and effort, and sharpen their abilities.

In India such challenging environments in technical arena are provided by IIT's and top engineering colleges. In design it would be provided by the top fashion design insitutes like NIFT or NID. In law, the top law colleges such as in Bangalore provide the toughest challenges. Choosing the colleges is therefore important to excel, because these colleges themselves provide the right fertiliser and ground to excel.

2. They find a group of friends that work together during graduation

In India, however, i have found another equally powerful way that helps students to excel. That route is  'group of friends'. This is a powerful route that even helps scientists to collaborate with each other and excel. There is lot of research on why 'a group of like minded individuals' working together enables each other to excel.

For instance, as we discussed earlier, I found Astha who excelled because she managed to find a group of friends in her college, They worked almost 2-3 hours each day together, challenged each other and needled each other to excel. I advise graduate students to do two things to excel. First is to find such a group of friends who complement each other( complementing members compete less with each other). And two, work on a real-life problem that will help to sharpen abilities. In a college, project activity is an ideal real-life problem for a technical engineer to sharpen his logical ability.

For instance, Abhishek Sen, one of the excellent performer who was interviewed in Ved program, found a real-life  problem of finding an instrument to measure haemoglobin, when he was doing medicine.

3. They find a graduating college ( or town) that develops their complementary abilities

Very few colleges actively develop other complementary abilities. A student is more likely to excel if the student can combine abilities, instead of relying only on one ability. A college, is therefore ideally suitable to help the student to develop complementary abilities such as in music, sports, communication, presentation, or any other field. A college like BITS, Pillani is very helpful in developing such complementary abilites because it offers students different groups to join.

4. They find a graduating college which enables the development of inter-personal abilities

Some colleges enable students to participate in many outdoor activities and group activities and develop their  inter-personal skills that are useful in excelling. As we have seen in the list of 8 abilities, one of the  most important ability that enable a person to develop as an entrepreneur is his interpersonal ability. As inter-personal ability also facilitates growth of intrapersonal ability, development of this ability is critical to excel.

Pradeep Lokhande, one of the excellent performer who was interviewed in Ved program, was an average student  in his logical abilities. What helped him excel in life, is the development of his interpersonal ability during his college days.

5. They have the right push of 'poverty' and pull of their 'ability' to excel

Some students have the appropriate logical ability to develop. Plus due to their average economic background, they have the right incentive to learn in the college. These two elements often combine together for a student to remain focussed in the college and therefore develop the necessary logical abilities to excel. Sunil Khandbahale, one of the excellent performer who was interviewed in Ved program, seems to be a person with this type of background.


In other words, students get a second chance to catch up if they have missed the development of their abilities in the school phase of their life. They can find the right college ( or the right town environment) to develop and fill the skill gaps. As you would appreciate, the real potential lies in using the option 3 and option 4.

In the next blog, we will talk about the the skills required to use the option 1. Even if the college provides the best environmental conditions to fill the skill gaps, the student must be 'skillful' enough to use the environment provided by the college. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

If you wish to excel with average IQ or just above it, you are forced to use these 3 steps

Let us recap some of the constraints that an average student faces in excelling :

1. To excel, a student must choose his ' bankable ability' that he can grow to 500 feet depth

A student of 13 must chose an ability ( be it logical ability of physics, visual ability of drawing, or physical ability of sports) that he can probe to 500 feet depth. It is depth that matters in excelling.

To reach this depth, a student must keep on untangling the threads, find interconnections of different elements, understanding the real-life implications of his understanding. He progresses in discontinuous steps. If he untangles initial threads, it is easier to untangle the next; until he encounters another block. Again he has to untangle. If the student manages to unfold the layers one after another, he is on his path of excelling. In other words, this process of unfolding is not completely in his control. Sometimes he gives up if he fails to negotiate a block. Therefore probing requires time and attention. Because a student has limited time, he cannot grow all his abilities in his limited time (unless he is a genius). He has to trust his intelligence and bank on some ability that he think can grow to a reasonable depth. Let us call this bankable ability. How can the student  choose the 'right' bankable ability amongst his different abilities?

Every student faces this tough dilemma on which ability to bet. Until we use an ability and spend time on it, we do not know what are we good at. But, given our limited time, we cannot explore and engage in all possible abilities.  It is a Catch-22 for every student. Do all students face this tough question of choosing bankable ability? No. Some are lucky.

For instance, if a student has a musical ability ( used by musicians) or kinesthetic ability ( used by sportsman), he is lucky. Because both are senses-based ability, they grow quickly at an early age. Therefore, these students at the age of 11-13 can see their 'developed abilities' in music and sports, and take a conscious decision to chose them easily. If their parents also have similar background in music and sports, it is easy for the student to choose this ability. That is why it is easy for daughters of actors to become actress while sons of sportsman to become sportsman and so on.

For students with cognitive ability like logical ( physics, biology etc) and linguistic ability ( English, French), which grows slower than senses-based abilities, choosing this bankable ability is tougher. However, for students with high IQ like Einstein, because their cognitive ability grows quickly and that too on one dimension, choosing this bankable ability is easier for them as it has grown to a sufficient extent. ( In other words, talented students with abilities on single dimension find it easier to choose their bankable ability !)

However, for majority of the students, with average IQ( and remember that most of the Noble Prize winners are not of high IQ), this is a difficult choice. They are good in many subjects. As their cognitive ability grows slower than senses-based ability, none of their ability has grown enough by the age of 13. They are therefore forced to choose amongst the abilities that have poorly developed to the similar depth!

How can these average IQ students chose their bankable ability and also focus on it for a long enough time? If the student is asked to chose one ability without being told why, he may comply with the instructions for a moment. But no sooner he finds someone else developing another ability, he will waiver. No sooner he will face big roadblocks, he will give up.

In order to help student not just choose his ability, but also remain focused on it for a long enough time, the student must be confident of his choice. To be confident, 1> Student must know why is he choosing a bankable ability. He must understand all his abilities and how much he has developed them. All his doubts should be clarified. 2> He must understand what can he do with his chosen ability in the future, what jobs and industry he may be able to work in the future. 3> He must understand the different possibilities that cognitive performers like him have in combining their abilities, in complementing their ability, and so on. In other words, he must understand the principles of excellence that he can follow while excelling in his chosen ability.

Only when a student seriously engages in this journey of choosing his bankable ability, he can develop the requisite willpower and conviction to consciously stick with the 'bankable ability' over the next 4 years ( till his XIIth class) without getting distracted. For an average IQ student, this dedicated attention and effort is absolutely necessary for him to grow his bankable abilities and excel!

2. To excel, only choosing a bankable ability is not enough. Student must develop a learning plan to guide the growth of his bankable ability over the next 4 years till XIIth. 

As we have seen above, developing an ability ( be it in English, Physics or any other arena) to a reasonable depth not only requires time and attention, but also the right self-made plan to get assistance from around him, because every student will face constraints due to his school as well as location of his residence.

For instance, if  a student has to develop his bankable ability in physics, he must find the right self-made plan of using four different possibilities 1> Using local teachers and experts in physics who can help him negotiate the blocks of learning physics as and when they appear, 2> Identify and join with local friends who also wish to pursue the same growth in physics 3> Use online tools on internet to learn a difficult topic of physics, and 4> Find community of physics friends at a wider global level who can constantly help and challenge him. We have seen already seen how this learning plan should be made in an earlier blog.

As you would observe in many cases, if a student does not have enough local help from his school or city, he has to shift his school. That is why, you will find that many students go to big cities for getting admission into IIT. If  a student has to excel in design, for instance, he has to do the same.

3. To excel, a student should chose appropriate graduation career path to convert his abilities into a skill   

Basically graduation career path is chosen not only to develop the chosen bankable ability to a further depth of 1000 feet and more after XIIth class, but also enable the student to grow other ancillary abilities which can be combined in a skill-package in which the student can excel.

However, career paths today are chosen today only with a limited objective of developing the core cognitive ability, say of engineering, drawing, or medicine. However, when a student ignores his other abilities, he remains ineffective to function in a job despite getting good marks in graduation. Nasscom-mckinsey survey of 2009, for instance, found that only 26% of the engineering graduates in India are employable, while 15% of other graduates are employable.

Chosen career path should also help you develop complementary abilities, let us say in music or nature, if you have them. For instance, if a student is good in music, choosing an engineering college that will offer opportunities to develop the ability of music is important for this student. Please remember that the objective is not to develop 'all round talent' in a student; instead the objective is to help him develop music ability sufficiently, so that he can combine music with his engineering. For instance, Sony offers jobs where  music+engineering skills can be combined very effectively in one job.

Other useful ancillary abilities are intrapersonal and interpersonal abilities, which as we have seen earlier, are crucial abilities for cognitive performers.

And more importantly, one should also chose the career path with wide open eyes. For instance, the student should explore all the optional routes of a career path, so that he is not surprised when he fails to grow his  bankable ability to the desired depth. For instance, most of the IIT students employ the exit route of  MBA when they discover that they cannot grow their engineering ability instead of using the 'combination' path because they are not aware of the other options.


In order to excel in his career, the student at the age of 13 must therefore take at least 3 steps: 
  1. Choose and focus on the bankable abilities for a long enough time to grow them to sufficient depth. 
  2. Find the right Self-made plan of using local and global support, and make a learning plan, to grow 'bankable abilities' to sufficient depth till 12th and 
  3. Choose the most appropriate graduation career path (after knowing all its options) to combine all his abilities into a useful skill 
As you would appreciate, all three steps are necessary for a student, to ensure that the student is ready to excel. Without choosing bankable ability, there is no focus of effort. Without self-made learning plan, bankable ability does not grow to sufficient depth. And without an appropriate graduation career path, bankable ability cannot be converted into a useful skill in which one can excel. 

A high IQ student can afford to spend his time and attention on many abilities, use the available career path options poorly but still manage to find and grow one of his ability in which he could excel. However, when they do not use these 3-steps, they are more likely to waste their high talent. For an average IQ student, however, it is  mandatory to take all the 3-steps, because he will be able to produce results only if he 'focuses his limited energy on few abilities', develops his other complementary abilities simultaneously, and knows how to combine his 'abilities' innovatively.